ST. LOUIS — Gov. Mike Parson on Tuesday announced a goal to test at least 7,500 people in Missouri for COVID-19 each day this week, an objective that would represent a 60% increase in testing from last week.
His announcement comes as Missouri ranks 41 out of 50 states in the number of per capita tests that have been administered since the start of the pandemic, according to a data analysis by Johns Hopkins University.
President Donald Trump’s administration has pushed all states to test at least 2% of their populations this month. Missouri is nearly on pace to meet that goal by the end of the month, and Parson said Tuesday that increased testing will be a focus of his administration and will underpin the reopening of the economy.
“By increasing testing we can continue to slow the spread by identifying positive patients and isolating them as quickly as possible,” Parson said during a news conference, adding that more testing will also be key to prepare for the fall when schools may reopen and flu season returns, bringing many symptomatic people.
State health officials have argued that testing capacity has been adequate in the state so far, with a strategy focusing on mass-testing high-risk communities for outbreaks including nursing homes, prisons and meat packing facilities. That state has also been increasing testing of asymptomatic people in recent weeks to get a sense of how widespread the virus is in certain areas.
Parson said Tuesday that less than 10% of tests have come back as positive so far in the state. Parson said that as testing increases, the number of positive cases will inevitably rise.
State officials reported 135 new cases of COVID-19 and 11 additional deaths Tuesday. That brings the state’s overall total to 11,080 cases and 616 deaths.
Parson also said the state will see more budget cuts beginning at the start of the fiscal year July 1.
The Legislature approved an overall budget blueprint earlier this month that was about $700 million less than what Parson had sought in January, before the effects of COVID-19 sent the economy into a tailspin.
But Parson on Tuesday said he expects to withhold additional funds unless the federal government approves more stimulus spending.
“We have to take a hard look at our budget and make some very difficult decisions,” Parson said. The governor added that he expects to announce details of cuts in the coming days, but has met with state department heads as well as universities on those decisions.
Parson has thus far cut more than $220 million in state spending to adjust for the economic slowdown.
In neighboring Illinois on Tuesday, Gov. J.B. Pritzker also emphasized efforts on testing, announcing that the state has ranked first among large states in per capita COVID-19 testing in the last seven days. The state ranks third among all states after Rhode Island and New Mexico, according to data cited by the governor’s office from covidtracking.com.
“Over the last few weeks we’ve seen Illinois make significant measurable progress (on) growing the daily testing numbers,” Pritzker said. “Today we reached another major milestone.”
Within the last week, Illinois on average has tested more than 20,000 people a day for the virus.
Pritzker also said the state was on track to begin the next step of its reopening plan in 10 days, allowing nonessential manufacturers and businesses to reopen, though bars and restaurants will still be restricted to curbside pickup and takeout service.
Pritzker said barbershops and salons will be allowed to open with safety guidelines, and fitness centers will be allowed to hold outdoor classes and one-on-one training.
Retail locations will be allowed to open with limited capacity and masks required, Pritzker said.
The state reported 1,545 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday and 146 more deaths. There has been a total of 98,030 cases, including 4,379 deaths, since the start of the outbreak.
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